A lawsuit brought by a federal court challenged a recent plan to recapture the Mexican gray wolf, known as the New Mexico lobe, as insufficient to protect the species and prevent its extinction.
Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a revised recovery plan for the wolf – listed as federally endangered since 1976 – removing a population limit of about 320 wolves living in their experimental habitat, covering parts of southern New Mexico and Arizona.
The agency also planned to increase the targets for the release of wolves into the wild in hopes of using a process known as “cross-breeding”, which involves sending wolves raised in captivity to live in pre-established caves.
This was a claim in the lawsuit filed Tuesday, which also claimed the new plan set insufficient population targets and wrongfully excluded the wolf’s recovering population from lands that the case said were “promising” for habitats in the Grand Canyon and the southern Rocky Mountains. -region.
Another complaint was that the plan would consider success in addressing genetic diversity based on the age of the released wolves, not if they breed.
Plaintiffs called on a federal judge to declare the Fish and Wild Service’s plan in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and set it aside for further review before the plan takes effect.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs ‘organizations in the case, said that increased genetic diversity was crucial to increasing the number of wolves and that the federal government’s lack of adequate policy would threaten the species’ survival.
“Due to the federal absence of genetic standards is a willingness to keep killing wolves and avoid effective release of wolves, all on behalf of the public land livestock industry,” he said. “Our trial will show how the government refused to be honest about the deadly consequences of its poor management.”
There were at least 196 wolves in the wild by 2021, according to a report from the Fish and Wildlife Service, and its goal was to see 22 exposed lobes reach breeding age, about 2 or 3 years old, by 2030.
They once numbered in the thousands, sounded the suit, and lived across the American West, but were systematically killed by the government through the 20s.th century to protect livestock.
The federal government began reintroducing wolves in 1998, but was exempted by the Fish and Wildlife Service from key elements of the Endangered Species Act, read the suit, as a “non-essential experimental population.”
“The service’s attempts to control the wild Mexican wolf population – through several repetitions of a management rule – have been insufficient since they began,” the case read.
The case claimed that since the wolves released over the years were descendants of a small number of captured lobes, genetic diversity was always an issue.
A lack of genetic diversity among the Mexican gray wolf population was a problem, the suit read, ignoring the federal government repeatedly in its efforts to restore the species.
“In particular, the FWS has repeatedly failed to follow the best available scientific evidence regarding the measures necessary to recover Mexican wolves,” the case read. “Because all reintroduced wolves are descended from a small number of captive individuals, genetic diversity has always been a primary concern.”
Genetic diversity can increase a species’ potential for survival by enabling it to adapt to a wider range of conditions, such as climate change, read a report from the Climate Adaptation Science Centers in the US Geological Survey.
“Maybe one year one population is doing well, and another year another population is doing well. Over time, they all reconcile, the report said.” By having that variation built in, the species minimizes its risk of complete collapse.
“The greater the genetic diversity, the greater the potential for resistance to future climate change.”
Today, most Mexican gray wolves living in the prescribed population area are as genetically similar as the first siblings, read the suit, creating health problems and reducing the success of the fry.
“This poses significant threats to the long-term viability of the population, as genetically depressed wolves have reduced reproductive success and disease resistance and suffer from several cumulative health problems,” the case read.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s rule for wolf recovery was rejected in 2018 by a federal court that demanded it be revised, resulting in the new rule published this year.
But the policy still did not go far enough to promote the regrowth of the species, read the suit, and should be revised again to include management practices that allowed for more diversity and expanded the region they could populate.
“Mexican wolves, ranchers, and the general public would all benefit from the increased coordination that comes with ‘essential’ status and by allowing wolves back to appropriate habitats where there is little opportunity for conflict,” Craig Miller told Defenders of Wildlife. another group of plaintiffs.
“Instead, the new rule prevents necessary expansion and limits a single population to an area with very unsuitable habitats and a high probability of conflict.”
Following the release of the new plan on June 30, Regional Director Amy Lueders of Fish and Wildlife Southwest said it would protect the species while balancing the needs of local landowners and the agricultural industry.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our state, federal and tribal partners to ensure that the trial population contributes to long-term conservation and recovery while minimizing the impact on livestock operators, communities and other wildlife,” she said in a statement. .
Adrian Hedden can be contacted at 575-628-5516, email@example.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.